“Watch your language!” We’ve probably all heard that before. Maybe it was from Mom when you tried out a new word you heard on the bus, or maybe you’ve said it to your own kids. However, my warning today to “watch your language” carries a different meaning.
I know you’re not cussing in your sales pitches or have profanity-laced websites. But the language you’re using in presentations, websites, collateral or social media could be prompting your audience to roll their eyes or click away in a hurry.
Jargon. Fifty-cent words. Unnecessarily complex sentences. A novel packed onto one slide. Overly technical language. You’re providing a bad customer experience when you don’t communicate simply and clearly. Words matter.
At Katzcy, we see plenty of examples of complex and confusing language. Whether it’s technology websites or cybersecurity sales pitches, providing a good experience means you need to “watch your language.”
Here are three tips for communicating more clearly and effectively:
1. Strive for an 8th grade reading level.
The best technical minds I know understand how to explain their subject so a kindergartner can understand it. Writing at an 8th grade reading level doesn’t mean your audience is stupid. It means you need content that is super easy to understand. We all skim. We’re inundated with information. The easier you make it for people to pick out the info that’s important to them, the more time people will spend reading and engaging.
2. Have a call to action.
Make it very clear why you’re communicating to your audience and what you want them to do as a result. What do you expect people to do after you’ve presented? Or after reading your blog? Or scanning that nurture email you sent? Have a call to action and let them respond.
3. More is rarely better.
In college, my husband (then boyfriend and a great writer) gave me advice to be a more purposeful and efficient communicator. He said, “Act as if each word costs you a dollar.” In today’s economy, words would probably go for $5 apiece. Spend wisely. That means more bullets, less words, and concise information blocks.
This is also true in terms of how many ideas you communicate. Focus. Don’t tell absolutely everything at once. Know what’s valuable for your audience in that moment and deliver just that message. Anything more is dilutive and confusing.
You’re competing for the attention of your audience. If your clever copy is outsmarting them, you lose. What’s your language saying about your business?